Friday, February 6, 2009

Asking the Right Doctor the Right Question

There's a lot of medicinal wisdom doctors don't share with their patients. I assumed that was because the doctors are not keeping abreast of current research.

Often, that is true, but there's another reason that some doctors, even if they KNOW about something, won't tell us.

If he/she works in a group, such as at a clinic or hospital, the doctor may be prohibited from divulging any information that is not considered "mainstream." They also must be careful not to outright contradict other doctors.

In this latter case, we might be able to get better answers from doctors just by changing the way we ask the questions. We need to give them a way to give us uncensored advice without violating their job protocols.

A letter to Dr. Mercola from another doctor exemplified a two-fold dilemma. The first is that medicine is not always considered medicine. Some cultures, such as in America, separate out medicinal practices into "complementary, alternative, and mainstream."

The second problem is that doctors can be reprimanded (or fired) by administration for recommending medicine that is not considered "mainstream."

The letter can be read here: An Important Letter About Trust (free registration is required)

In the letter to Dr. Mercola, the doctor writing told the tale of being reprimanded. He said the issue was NOT that what he recommended was not solid advice and efficacious, but simply that it was not "mainstream" in the United States (it was considered "mainstream" in Europe.)

He went on to say that If a patient ASKS about some alternative therapy, he can give honest and well-informed answers.

Another suggestion was to ask something like, "If you had my illness, what would you personally use to treat yourself?" He could answer that as well, because he is talking about himself -- not suggesting that YOU do it.

I had a similar experience myself some years back. I injured my knee and went to an orthopedist who took an MRI and then informed me that I HAD to have an operation "or else such-and-such will happen."

I went to my trusted rheumatologist, Dr. N. who had, years earlier given me great advice such as lose weight, exercise, use food supplements, and get well-fitted running shoes. I asked him if what the orthopedist said was true.

Dr. N. carefully said,"If you don't have the operation, it is possible that such-and-such may happen."

That gave me pause. I rephrased the question. "If I DO have the operation, will such-and-such NOT happen?"

Dr. N. responded, "If you do have the operation, such-and-such can still happen."

Frustrated, I asked, "If it were YOUR knee, would YOU have the operation!??"

"NO." was the firm reply, and he was not hesitant to tell me why HE would not have it.

I did not have the operation. I have not regretted that decision. I am glad I got a second opinion, and asked the question the right way. But just as important (if not more so), I asked the right question to the right doctor.

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Last Updated:
06 February 2009


Anonymous said...

What we want is more than integrative medicine. It is biomedical or functional medicine. It is fixing or addressing the underlying pathology. Is that really so much to ask for?


Anonymous said...

Great examples of how to ask a doctor the correct questions. I didn't ask before I had a surgery and within a year the issue was as bad as it was in the first place. I think I had a month after the recovery period it felt okay. Now I know to not just jump on a procedure. I can research and ask a lot of questions...